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Tribunal overturns 1993 decision that denied workers' compensation benefits

Appeal panel sided with the claimant's doctors rather than WSIB's consultants.
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THUNDER BAY — In a case that dates back more than a quarter of a century, Ontario's Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal has ruled that a woman who suffered a neck condition on the job should have been entitled to workers' compensation benefits.

The decision of the tribunal, which held a hearing into the matter in Thunder Bay in the fall, was just recently made public.

The three-member panel heard that a former accounts-receivable clerk, who was in her 30s at the time, in 1993 claimed an injury to her neck with symptoms including headaches and extensive muscle soreness.

She maintained that her posture was the main contributor to the condition in that she was sitting for seven hours a day at her desk, with her head tilted downward about 85 per cent of the time.

The worker testified that her posture was affected by an unstable chair and desk that was not ergonomically appropriate for her.

The Workplace Safety & Insurance Board rejected her application for benefits after deciding her neck problems were not caused by her working conditions.

After an Appeals Resolution Officer for the WSIB upheld that decision in 1998, the case was placed in "inactive" status until 2018, when the woman filed a further appeal with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal.

These adjudicators reconsidered the evidence, and decided that she had been injured "out of and in the course of" her employment.

In their decision, they noted that "the preponderance of the medical reporting before us establishes a causal relationship between the workers' work duties and her neck condition."   

Among the medical reporting, they cited the written opinions of a chiropractor, the woman's family doctor and an orthopaedic surgeon in 1993 which all connected her problem to her duties on the job.

The tribunal reviewed but was not persuaded by contradictory conclusions by two WSIB medical consultants.

"We prefer the medical evidence of the worker's treating physicians, who treated and examined (her) over an extended period of time, as well as (the) specialist orthopedic surgeon...over the board medical consultants who did not have the benefit of a physical examination of the worker," the panel said.

With her appeal now granted, the amount and duration of the benefits the woman is entitled to will now be referred to the WSIB for adjudication.

 





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